Learning Taiko Basics

A series of links within the song database that are of use when learning taiko. 

Learning Taiko 

It is our desire that people new to Taiko will make understanding the history and traditions that form the basis of Taiko as we express it today part of their Taiko journey. Potential practitioners and students new to Taiko are encouraged to seek-out Taiko mentorship and/or training through established groups, workshops.

Many established groups welcome the opportunity to nurture taiko interest outside of their area, and are happy to travel to work with interested groups. Additionally, many touring Taiko groups performing in your area are often happy to do public workshops for those interested in learning more about Taiko. You can find established groups on the Taiko Source Group Map.  

Notable traveling workshop leaders and mentors have included:

Are you an established Taiko-practitioner and are doing out-of-town/state/country workshops and want to add your name to this list?  Please contact us at info@taikocommunityalliance.org 

Getting Started

While the following resources are handy to get started, or to help refine at-home practice for established students, it is strongly recommended that you seek-out professional Taiko instruction whenever possible.

Tips by Drum Type

From stance to how one holds the Bachi, each Taiko has a different way of playing it to get the best ranges of sound, with the least impact on your body. This is where lack of formal instruction becomes the most notable. When possible, seek-out professional taiko instruction.

Making Practice Taiko Drums


Tire-Taiko Stands


Making Practice Bachi

Common Wood-types: Use dowels from a local hardware store. Oak (or other hardwood) gives a crisp sound, and though they are quite durable, they are heavier than the softer woods. Poplar is light and comfortable to play with, the sound is a bit softer than hardwood, and will wear out more quickly.

Bachi-type / Length (cm) / Diameter (cm) / Dowels commonly available in the U.S.


Making Practice Percussion

Using practice hand-percussion is much, much, easier on the ears as you learn these instruments. Additionally for Atarigane (Kane), a simple practice version will minimize hard impact time, extending the life of your Shumoku (mallet).

Check Pattern (Drill)

Notes from arranger, David Cheetham… This drill is an algorithmic approach to playing all possible combinations of notes within a single beat using a 4-part subdivision (16th notes, or 4 notes per beat). There are 16 possibilities, and this exercise covers them all in a logical order.

The exercise is played with the first line being repeated after each individual line, and the sticking for an individual line is always dictated by the first line, i.e. if a note’s position within the beat means it is left-handed in the first line, it will be left-handed in the individual line regardless of what else is happening in that line.

This drill is best played with a metronome and at a wide variety of tempos. There are also many variations and mutations of this drill for working on specific skills, such as splitting the ensemble into 2 groups and playing different patterns which interlock against each other, or playing it “filled in” where one plays all 4 notes every beat but adds an accent to the notes present in each pattern. This drill can also be played in a swing style for additional variation Scores, notes, and audio files to help learn this piece.

Classic Drills 

Listed here are are classic and new drills groups and individuals use to help learn Taiko, as well as keep ever deepening skills sharp. 

Listed here are are classic and new drills groups and individuals use to help learn Taiko, as well as keep ever deepening skills sharp.

The Set-Up: Drills are best done to a metronome when possible. A shime player keeping a quarter note Straight-Ji without the aid of a metronome will tend to adjust for the group, leaving everyone thinking things are going better than they really are. 

To give everyone solid timing training, a simple digital metronome (Example: Korg MA-30), a SmartPhone with metronome app (Example: Musebook’s m30 pendulum style), or a PC using a free online metronome can be plugged into an amplifier with with a double-male plug earbud cable (easily found at local audio store or online). 

Some amplifiers may need an additional jack adapter: 3.5mm female to 1/4 inch male.  If an amp is not available, have one Atarigane (or Clave) player listen to the metronome through earbuds, keeping the quarter note Ji-pulse for the whole group. The Ji-keeper’s job, stick with the metronome no matter what.

Tip: Start slow then work your way up to faster tempos. The key is to do phrases well, then increase the difficulty with speed. With each practice session though, it’s good to do a few rounds where you push yourself a bit. This helps you identify trouble spots to work on.


Western count: 4/4 time.

To begin, set metronome to 60. Repeat each phrase twice before moving on.

Sticking: R/L Even strokes — R-L R-L R-L R-L

Quarter Rests: iya, hup — vocalized or not. So-re can be used for two quarter note rests in a row at the end of a measure. (So-Re [two quarter notes] and SoRe [one quarter note] are also handy end-of-measure signals called-out over the top of play.)

Whole note: 1 [2-3-4] = JON [hup, So-re] {JON = RL Simultaneous single hit}. Other optional: 2xDON R-L single hits.

Half notes: 1 [2] 3 [4] = Don [hup] Don [iya]

(1) hit per quarter note (= quarter notes): 1-2-3-4 = Don Don Don Don

(2) hits per quarter note (= 8th notes): 1& 2& 3& 4& = DoKo DoKo DoKo DoKo

(3) hits per quarter note (= 8th note triplets): 1&a 2&a 3&a 4&a = DoKoDo KoDoKo DoKoDo KoDoKo

(4) hits per quarter note (= 16th notes): 1e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a = DoKoDoKo DoKoDoKo DoKoDoKo DoKoDoKo

(5) hits per quarter note: 12345 22345 32345 42345

(6) hits per quarter note: 123456 223456 323456 423456

(7) hits per quarter note: 1234567 2234567 3234567 4234567

(8) hits per quarter note (= 32nd notes): 12345678 22345678 32345678 42345678

— Now work backward through the pattern > 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Half, Whole.

Jiuchi (Ji-Basic)  

Listed here are Jiuchi (Ji-Basic) common to many Taiko songs, or new/other Jiuchi to share. Typically played on Shime or Atarigane (Kane, Chan-Chiki), but also played on the edge of a Chu or Odaiko, on a Cannon (Tetsu-zutsu), Chappa or Clave, or other instrument able to audibly raise above the main drums. 

Note: The Kuchi Shoga used here: Tek-Ke = Te-Ke, TekKe = TeKe. Use preference may differ by region, but the meaning is the same. テ ケ = teke.  Kuchi Shoga Key: Kuchi Shoga on TaikoSource.com Song Database.

Classic Jiuchi

Notation Notes:

Straight-Ji = TenTen TenTen TenTen TenTen …

Insight: Can be eighth or sixteenth notes depending on the speed of the piece — sticking remains the same.

Western count 4/4 time: Eighth note straight hits

Even hits: 1&, 2&, 3&, 4&

Sticking: R L R L R L R L


Swing-Ji (aka: DoKo or Horse Beat) = Tek-Ke Tek-Ke …

Western count 4/4 time: Eighth note triplet with the middle hit missing [8th rest]

Even hits: 1[&]A, 2[&]A, 3[&]A, 4[&]A

Sticking: R-L R-L R-L R-L

R/l, Right accented stroke option: TEK-ke TEK-ke TEK-ke TEK-ke …

r/L, Left accented stroke option: tek-KE tek-KE tek-KE tek-KE…


TEN tekke (Horse Beat) = TEN tekke …

Insight: Keep left close (1″ or less) to drum head at all times for a more “driving” feel.

Western count 4/4 time: Sixteenth notes with the 2nd hit missing [sixteenth rest]

Accent on the downbeat: 1[e]&a, 2[e]&a, 3[e]&a, 4[e]&a

Sticking: R-rl R-rl R-rl R-rl


Matsuri-Ji = TEN tsuku Ten Ten (or, TEN tsuku ten Ten)…

Western count 4/4 time: Accent first quarter note, then two eighth notes (soft), then two quarter notes (med.)

Single accent: Accent on the first hit of the measure: 1, (2&), (3), (4)

Single accent Sticking: R (rl) r l

Double accent: Accent on the first and last hit of the measure — …Four, ONE — 1, (2&), (3), 4

Double accent Sticking: R (rl) r L

Jiuchi Resources

Additional Jiuchi To Share

TERE tsuku = TERE (tsuku) … (Play the tsukus super super super quietly)

Insight: Think — HIT HIT (touch touch) HIT HIT (touch touch)

Western count 4/4 time: Eighth notes alternate LOUD LOUD (soft soft)

R/L, accent on the first and third pair: 1&, (2&), 3&, (4&)

Sticking: RL (rl) RL (rl)


Kuchi-shōga (shouga), kuchi shoka (shouka), kuchi showa (shouwa) — “mouth writing”, “mouth singing”, “mouth chatter”; mnemonic system of vocalizing taiko sounds and patterns in a type of solfege solmization; part of the oral tradition in teaching/learning Japanese music; different instruments have their own vocabulary (e.g. shime-daiko, chu-daiko, atarigane, fue); different groups or regions may use different vocabularies as well; thetaiko adage, “if you can say it, you can play it” is an expression referred to learning kuchi shoga first before playing it on a drum. 

Percussive Arts Society (PAS) Rudiments

Being open to inspiration (and education) from other percussion forms helps expand options for creating Taiko pieces.

Taiko Backbeats App - Allen Liu

Note from developer Allen Liu:  Taiko Backbeats started out as a personal project since I mostly practice by myself. Then I figured other folks may find it useful as well, so I cleaned it up and decided to share it with the taiko community. This will forever be a work in progress. Please feel free to email me if you have any comments, suggestions or any other ideas that you would like to share.

Taiko Drum Machine

Taiko Backbeats let’s you use one of several common taiko Ji patterns, or, make your own!

Features include:

Taiko Right-Left Practice (Drill) - Kumano Taiko

A short, fun drill to train right and left sticking. This arrangement is for two chus and a chappa.  (Original composition name: Taiko Rechts-Links Ubung)

Scores, notes, and audio files to help learn this piece.